Class 9 history chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes | Class 9 history chapter 1 Notes

Class 9 history chapter 1 the french revolution notes | Class 9 history chapter 1 Notes, in this notes we will learn about french revolution, French revolution led to the end of monarchy in france. A society based on privileges gave way to a new system of governance. the declaration of the rights of man during the revolution, announced the coming of a new time. the idea the all individuals had rights and could claim equality became part of a new language of politics. the notions of equality and freedom emerged as the central ideas of a new age.

Class 9 history chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes


Class 9 history chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes


  1. French revolution started in 1789. The series of events started by the middle-class shook the upper classes.
    • The people revolted against cruel regime of monarchy.
    • This revolution put forward the ideas of liberty fraternity and equality.
  2. The revolution began on 14th July 1789. Several hundred people March towards the eastern part of the city and stormed the fortress-prison, of Bastille,
    • In the armed fight that followed the commander of the Bastille was killed.
  3. The Bastille was hated by all because it stood for the despotic power of the king.
    • The fortress was demolished.
Class 9 history chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes

French Society During the Late Eighteenth Century:

Cause of the French Revolution: –

Class 9 history chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes

Political Cause

  • In 1774, Louis XVI of the Bourbon family of kings ascended the throne of France. He was 20 years old and married to the Austrian princess Marie Antoinette.
    • Upon his accession the new king found an empty treasury.
  • Long years of war had drained the financial resources of France.
  • Louis XVI, France helped the thirteen American colonies to gain their independence from the common enemy, Britain.
    • The war added more than a billion livres to a debt that had already risen to more than 2 billion livres.
  • The Cost of maintaining an extravagant court at the immense palace of Versailles.
  • Lenders who gave the state credit, now began to charge 10 per cent interest on loans.
  • French government was obliged to spend an increasing percentage of its budget on interest payments alone.
  • To meet its regular expenses, such as the cost of maintaining an army, the court, running government offices or universities the state was forced to increase taxes.

Social Cause

  • French society in the eighteenth century was divided into three estates, and only members of the third estate paid taxes.
  • The society of estates was part of the feudal system.
  • The term Old Regime is usually used to describe the society and institutions of France before 1789. 
  • Peasants made up about 90 percent of the population a small number of them owned the land they cultivated.
    • About 60 percent of the land owned by nobles, the church and other richer member of the third estate.
  • The members of the first two estates, that is the clergy and the nobility, enjoyed certain privileges by birth.
  • The most important of these was exemption from paying taxes to the state. The nobles further enjoyed feudal privileges.
    • These included feudal dues, which they extracted from the peasants.
  • Peasants were obliged to render services to the lord-to work in his house and fields-to serve in the army or to participate in building roads.
Heavy Tax System
  • The Church extracted its share of taxes called tithes from the peasants.
  • All members of the third estate had to pay taxes to the state.
    • These included a direct tax, called taille.
  • Number of indirect taxes which were levied on articles of everyday consumption like salt or tobacco.
    • The burden of financing activities of the state through taxes was borne by the third estate alone.

Economic Cause


  • The population of France rose from about 23 million in 1715 to 28 million in 1789.
  • This led to a rapid increase in the demand for foodgrains.
    • Production of grains could not keep pace with the demand.
  • Price of bread which was the staple diet of the majority rose rapidly.
  • wages did not keep pace with the rise in prices.
  • Gap between the poor and the rich widended.
  • Things became worse whenever drought or hail reduced the harvest.
  • Subsistence crisis, something that occurred frequently in France during the Old Regime.

A Growing 3 Estates Class Envisages: –

  • This was left to those groups within the third estate who had become prosperous and had access to education and new ideas.
    • The eighteenth century witnessed the emergence of social groups, termed the middle class.
  • Who earned their wealth through an expanding overseas trade and from the manufacture of goods such as woolen and silk textiles that were either exported or bought by the richer members of society.
  • The third estate included professions such as lawyers or administrative officials.
  • All of these were educated and believed that no group in society should be privileged by birth.
  • Person’s social position must depend on his merit.
Philosophies and Their Contributions
  • These ideas envisaging a society based on freedom and equal laws and opportunities for all, were put forward by philosophers such as John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau.
  • In his Two Treatises of Government, Locke sought to refute the doctrine of the divine and absolute right of the monarch.
  • Rousseau carried the idea forward, proposing a form of government based on a social contract between people and their representatives.
  • In the Spirit of the law’s Montesquieu Proposed a division of power within the government between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.
Political Thinkers in France

The ideas of these philosophers were discussed intensively in salons and coffee-houses nad spread among people through books and newspapers.


Class 9 history chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes

  • On 5 May 1789, Louis XVI called together an assembly of the Estates General to pass proposals for new taxes.
  • The first and second estates sent 300 representatives each, who were seated in rows facing each other on two sides, while the 600 members of the third estate had to stand at the back.
  • The third estate was represented by its more prosperous and educated members.
    • Peasants, artisans and women were denied entry of the assembly.
    • Their grievances and demands were listed in some 40,000 letters which the representatives had brought with them.
  • Voting in the Estates General in the past had been conducted according to the principle that each estate had one vote.
    • Time to Louis XVI was determined to continue the same practice.
    • But members of the third estate demanded that voting now be conducted by the assembly as a whole, where each member would have one vote.
  • This was one of the democratic principles put forward by philosophers like Roussean in his book The Social Contract.
  • When the king rejected this proposal, members of the third estate walked out of the assembly in protest.
  • The representatives of the third estate viewed themselves as spokesmen for the whole French nation.
  • On 20 June they assembled in the hall of an indoor tennis court in the grounds of Versailles.
  • They declared themselves a National Assembly and swore not to disperse till they had drafted a constitution for France that would limit the powers of the monarch.
  • The were led by Mirabeau and Abbe Sieyes.
    • Mirabeau was born in a noble family but was convinced of the need to do away with a society of feudal privilege.
When National Assembly was busy at Versailles drafting a constitution
  •  The rest of France seethed with turmoil.
  • A severe winter had meant a bad harvest; the price of bread rose, often bakers exploited the situation and hoarded supplies.
  • At the same time the king ordered  troops to move into Paris. On 14 July the agitated crowd stormed and destroyed the Bastille.
  • In the countryside rumors spread from village to village that the lords of the manor had hired bands of brigands who were on their way to destroy the ripe crops.
  • Caught in a frenzy of fear, peasants in several districts seized hoes and pitchforks an attacked chateau. They looted hoarded grain and burnt down documents containing records of manorial dues.
  • A large number of nobles fled from their homes, many of them migrating to neighboring countries.
  • Louis XVI finally accorded recognition to the National Assembly and accepted the principle.
    • That his powers would from now on be checked by a constitution.
  • On the night of 4 August 1789, the Assembly passed a decree abolishing the feudal system of obligations and taxes.
  • Members of the clergy too were forced to give up their privileges.
  • Tithes were abolished and lands owned by the Church were confiscated.
  • As a result, the government acquired assets worth at least 2 billion livres.


Class 9 history chapter 1 the french revolution notes

  • The National Assembly completed the draft of the constitution in 1791.
    • Its main object was to limit the powers of the monarch.
  • These powers instead of being concentrated in the bands of one person, were now separated and assigned to different institutions –
    • legislature,
    • executive
    • and judiciary.
  • The Constitution of 1791 vested the power to make laws in the National Assembly, which was indirectly elected.
  • Citizens voted for a group of electors, who in turn chose the Assembly.
  • Not all citizens, however, had the right to vote.
  • Only men above 25 years of age who paid taxes equal to at leas 3 days of a labourer’s wage were given the status of active citizens, that is they were entitled to vote.
  • The remaining men and all women were classed as passive citizens.
Class 9 history chapter 1 the french revolution notes
  • The Constitution began with a declaration of the rights of man and citizen.
  • Rights such as the
    • right to life
    • freedom of speech
    • freedom of opinion
  • equality before law, were established as natural and inalienable rights, that is, they belonged to each human being by birth and could not be taken away.
  • It was the duty of the state to protect each citizen’s natural rights.

Political Symbols

  • The Broken chain: Chains were used to fetter slaves. A broken chain stands for the act of becoming free.
  • The bundle of rods or fasces: One rod can be easily broken, but not an entire bundle. Strength lies in unity.
  • The eye within a triangle radiating light: The all seeing eye stands for knowledge. The rays of the sun will drive away the clouds of ignorance.
  • Scepter: Symbol of royal power.
  • Snake biting its fail to form a ring: Symbol of Eternity. A ring has neither beginning nor end.
  • Red Phrygian cap: Cap worn by a slave upon becoming free.
  • Blue-white-red: the national colour of France.
  • The winged woman: Personification of the law.
  • The Law Tablet: The law is the same for all, and all are equal before it.


  • Louis XVI had signed the Constitution
  • Rulers of other neighboring countries too were worried by the developments in France and made plans to send troops to put down the events that had been taking place there since the summer of 1789.
  • Before this could happen, The National Assembly voted in April 1792 to declare war against Prussia and Austria.
    • Thousands of volunteers from the provinces join the army.
  • They saw this as a war of the people against kings and aristocracies all over Europe.
  • The patriotic songs they sang was the Marseillaise, composed by the poet Roget de L’Isle.
    •  First time It was sung by volunteers from Marseilles as they marched into Paris and so got its name.
    • The Marseillaise is now the national anthem of France.

After 1791

  • The Constitution of 1791 gave political rights only the richer sections of society.
  • Political clubs became an important rallying point for people who wished to discuss government policies and plan their own forms of action.
  • The most successful of these clubs was that of the Jacobins.
    • Got its name from the former convent of St Jacob in Parts.
    • Women too, who had been active throughout this period, formed their own clubs.


Class 9 history chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes
Credit: NCERT

  • The members of the Jacobin club belonged mainly to the less prosperous sections of society.
    • They included small shopkeepers, artisans such as shoemakers, pastry cooks, watch-makers, printers as well as servants and daily-wage workers.
    • Their leader was Maximilian Robespierre.
  • Large group among the Jacobins decided to start wearing long striped trousers.
    • This was to set themselves apart from the fashionable sections of society, especially nobles, who wore knee breeches.
    • It was a way of proclaiming the end of the power wielded by the wearer of knee breeches.
    • Jacobins came to be known as the sans-culottes, literally meaning ‘those without knee breeches.
    • Sans-culotte’s men wore in addition the red cap that symbolized liberty.

In the summer of 1792

  • The Jacobins planned an insurrection of a large number of Parisians who were angered by the short supplies and high prices of food.
  • August 10, they stormed the palace of the Tuileries, massacred the king’s guards and held the king himself as hostage for several hours.
  • The Assembly voted to imprison the royal family.
  • Elections were held from now on all men of 21 years and above, regardless of wealth, got the right to vote.
  • The newly elected assembly was called the Convention.
  • On 21 September 1792 it abolished the monarchy and declared France a republic.
    • There is no hereditary monarchy.
  • Louis XVI was sentenced to death by a court on the charge of treason.
    • On 21 January 1793 he was executed publicly at the Place de la Concorde.
  • The queen Marie Antoinette met with the same fate shortly after.

The Reign of Terror

  • The period from 1793 to 1794 is referred to as the Reign of Terror.
    • Robespierre followed a policy of severe control and punishment.
  • All those whom he saw as being ‘enemies’ of the republic – ex-nobles and clergy, members of other political parties, even members of his own party who did not agree with his methods – were arrested, imprisoned and then tried by a revolutionary tribunal.
  • Robespierre’s government issued laws placing a maximum ceiling on wages and prices.
    • Meat and bread were rationed.
    • Peasants were forced to transport their grain to the cities and sell it at prices fixed by the government.
    • The use of more expensive white flour was forbidden; all citizens were required to eat the pain d’egalite equality bread, a loaf made of Wholewheat.
  • Equality was also sought to be practiced through forms of speech and address.
    • Instead of the traditional Monsieur ‘Sir’ and Madame (Madam) all French men and women were henceforth Citoyen and Citoyenne Citizen.
  • Churches were shut down and their buildings converted into barracks or offices.
  • Robespierre pursued his policies so relentlessly that even his supporters began to demand moderation.
  • He was convicted by a court in July 1794, arrested and on the next day sent to the guillotine.


Class 9 history chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes

  • If the court found them ‘guilty’ they were guillotined.
  • The guillotine is a device consisting of two poles and a blade with which a person is beheaded.
  • It was named after Dr.Guillotine who invented It

A Directory Rules France

The fall of the Jacobin government allowed the wealthier middle classes to seize power.

  • A new constitution was introduced which denied the vote to non-propertied sections of society.
  • It provided for two elected legislative councils.
    • These then appointed a Directory, an executive made up of five members.
  • This was meant as a safeguard against the concentration of power in a one-man executive as under the Jacobins.
  • The Directors often clashed with the legislative councils, who then sought to dismiss them.

The political instability of the directory paved the way for the rise of a military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Did Women have a Revolution?

Class 9 history chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes
credit: ncert

Women in french revolution

  • From the very beginning women were active participants in the revolution.
  • The hoped that their involvement would pressurize the revolutionary government to introduce measures to improve women lives.
  • Most women of the third estate had to work for a living.
    • They worked as seamstresses or laundresses, sold flowers, fruits and vegetables at the market,
    • or were employed as domestic servants in the houses of prosperous people.
  • Most women did not have access to education or job training.
  • Only daughters of nobles or weather members of the third estate could study at a convent, after which their families arranged a marriage for them.
  • Their wages were lower than those of men.

Women Club in french society

  • In order to discuss and voice their interests women started their own political clubs and newspaper.
  • About sixty women’s clubs came up in different French cities.
  • The society of Revolutionary and Republican Women was the most famous club.

Demands of Women

  • Women were disappointed that the Constitution of 1791 reduced them to passive citizens.
  • One of their main demands was that women enjoy the same political rights as men.
  • They demanded the right to vote, to be elected to the Assembly and to hold political office.
  • The revolutionary government did introduce laws that helped improve the lives of women.
    • The creation of state schools, schooling was made compulsory for all girls.
    • Fathers could no longer force them into marriage against their will.
    • Marriage was made into a contract entered freely and registered under civil law.
    • Divorce was made Lega and could be applied for by both women and men.
    • Women could now train for jobs, could become artists or run small businesses.

It was finally in 1946 that women in France won the right to vote.

The Abolition of Slavery

One of the most revolutionary social reforms of the Jacobin regimewas the abolition of slavery in the French colonies.

Class 9 history chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes

  • The colonies in the Caribbean – Martinique, Guadeloupe, and San Domingo – were important suppliers of commodities such as tobacco, indigo, sugar and coffee.
  • The slave trade began in the seventeenth century.
  • Triangular slave grade between Europe, Africa, and the Americas.
  • French merchants sailed from the ports of Bordeaux or Nantes to the African coast, where hey bought slaves from local chieftains.
  • Branded and shackled, the slaves were packed rightly into ships for the three-month long voyage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. There they were sold to plantation owner.
  • The exploitation of slave labour made it possible to meet the growing demand in European markets for sugar, coffee, and indigo.
  • Port cities like Bordeaux and Nantes owed their economic prosperity to the flourishing slave trade.
  • Throughout the eighteenth century there was little criticism of slavery in France.
  • The National Assembly held long debates bout whether the rights of man should be extended to all French subjects including those in the colonies.
  • But it did not pass any laws, fearing opposition from businessmen whose incomes depended on the slave trade.
  • It was finally the Convention which in 1794 legislated to free all slaves in the French overseas possessions.
  • Turned out to be a short-term measure: ten years later, Napoleon reintroduced slavery.
  • Slavery was finally abolished in French colonies in 1848.

The Revolution and Everyday Life

1789, In France saw many such changes in the lives of men, women and children.

  1. One important law that came into effect soon after the storming of the Bastille in the summer of 1789 was the abolition of censorship.
  2. All written materials and cultural activities – books, newspapers, plays – could be published or performed only after they had been approved by the censors of the king.


Napoleon Bonaparte

Class 9 history chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes

  • In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor of France.
  • He set out to conquer neighboring European countries, dispossessing dynasties and creating kingdoms where he placed members of his family.
  • Napoleon saw his role as a modernizer of Europe.
  • He introduced many laws such as the protection of private property and a uniform system of weights and measures provided by the decimal system.
  • Initially, many saw Napoleon as a liberator who would bring freedom for the people.
    • But soon the Napoleonic armies came to be viewed everywhere as an invading force.
    • Napoleon Bonaparte was finally defeated at waterloo in 1815.

What we got from French Revolution?

  1. The ideas of liberty and democratic rights were the most important legacy of the French Revolution.
  2. These spread from France to the rest of Europe during the nineteenth century, where feudal systems were abolished.
  3. Tipu Sultan and Rammohan Roy are two examples of individuals who responded to the ideas coming from revolutionary France.

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